Posts tagged journalist
Meena Iyer (MUMBAI MIRROR; October 03, 2010)
If you join the dots from S Shankar’s first film Gentleman (1993) to his latest Robot (2010) you’ll notice a common thread. For one, he has the finger on the pulse of the mainstream cinegoer. Plus, he knows how to embellish his work with gloss and grandeur at a scale still unimaginable by most filmmakers.
Real Indian palaces, heritage sights, Machu-Pichu, seven wonders of the world…he’s exploited them all long before Bollywood found their address.
But to grant the devil his due - his movies are not just special-effects ridden; there is a definite plot with a message. Also, the budgets get more phenomenal each time.
His first blockbuster Gentleman (1993) (with its iconic Chik paku raile number that introduced the world to Prabhu Deva’s dancing skills) brought a new style of filmmaking but his 90s protagonist is just a different avatar of Bollywood 70s phenomenon - Salim-Javed’s ‘angry young man’.
Quite like Amitabh Bachchan, Shankar’s hero has invariably been taking on the system, film after film. But where he leaves his contemporaries way behind is his technical wizardry. A fact just reiterated by his latest Robot (Endhiran, Tamil).
Comparisons to West
Two days after the release of the Rs 150 crore film, Kollywood’s Shankar is drawing comparisons to none other than James Cameron.
Both are August born; both spare no expense when it comes to their budgets and cinematic vision. And quite like Avatar, the highest worldwide grosser, Robot too has opened to a thunderous start.
The filmmaker himself remains remarkably modest about being “India’s Cameron quotient.” “Stop pulling my leg,’’ he says. “I don’t need any more spotlight on me than that is already there,” he laughs.
But with an enviable track record of seven of the biggest hits in Tamil cinema, Shankar is on the verge of rewriting history with his eight one. Trade sources confirm that Endhiran, has broken the record of the highest box office collections for a Tamil film - the film, they say, will cross the Rs 250 crore mark.
Decoding the director
So what’s Shankar all about? Born in a fairly affluent family in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, he worked as a quality control supervisor till the movie bug bit him. On a telephone call he still introduces himself as, “Hi I’m Shankar, the director,’’ and when you incredulously ask him why he says that, he replies, “my films and I are twins, joined at the hip.’’
But while his on-screen heroes are the robust Robinhood-rascala amalgamation, Shankar himself is the anti-thesis. He’s more like a quiet mouse on set, rather than like a megalomaniac wielding the megaphone. And he lets his ADs have a field day liaising with Bollywood beauties and the crew.
But quiet demeanor apart, with his baseball cap and huge sun-shades, Shankar is the boss. He has worked with the legends of Tamil cinema - Kamal Haasan (Indian) and Rajnikanth (Sivaji-The Boss, Endhiran-Robot) but is neither in awe of his subject nor does he doesn’t brook any interference.
As he says, “Rajnikanth is the ultimate for any film-maker. His demi-God status aside, he’s the most obedient actor I’ve worked with. He doesn’t leave the set once he reports for work…and he still maintains a child-like curiosity about everything related to a film.’’
What makes him work
One of his assistant directors says the secret of his success lies in his engineering background - he goes about fixing each nut and bolt step by step while filmmaking. Robot was originally planned five years ago with Priety Zinta and Kamal Hasan.
The monies didn’t drop at that point. It was then revived with Shah Rukh Khan. Story goes when Shankar went to Orange County (with his wife, son, daughters Aditi and Aishwarya and team of writers) to give SRK a detailed narration, he had every colour scheme, every frame and other minute details worked out. SRK was visibly impressed but the deal fell through and the Rajni came on board.
He is also a tough cookie to please. A stickler for punctuality, years ago, when Manisha Koirala (Indian, Mudalvan) walked in just a few minutes late on a couple of occasions, he had turned shades of purple. And one has seen him lapse into complete silence after he and the Nepali actress had a slight altercation about a scene.
Of course all this doesn’t compromise his work relations. The next morning, he sorted the matter with Manisha and shooting progressed at a brisk pace.
A simple man
In personal life he’s a plain-dresser. Though he arrives in a high-end automobile (he earlier drove a Merc but after his association with SRK, switched to a BMW) he has no shenanigans attached to his name. He’s the kind of guy who has no hesitation to eat food at roadside joints, goes about his work-home-work routine and shuns parties save for the occasional awards function.
But his budgets are the opposite. Ask him about why his budgets always get more prominence than his reviews, and he says, “I don’t know the intention of the press when it highlights the budgets of movies. In my movies the money has always been well-spent. In Robot, the animatronics used is of the same calibre of The Jurassic Park, Terminator and Avatar. And since it was also done at the Stan Winston Studios in the US, the SFX cost huge money. I only put my money where my mouth is. Robot needed high-end technical effects. If Indian cinema had a wider release, then I would have spent at least half of what Avatar did on SFX. However, I’ve always believed in bringing in something new via technology in every film of mine. And it is because of the novelty element that my films have a repeat value.”
“I think it’s wrong to talk about my movie budgets constantly. There is an equal amount of blood and sweat invested in the effort. The film took two years to make and we had a huge foreign crew involved. Every member of my unit and the foreign crew has worked so hard on this film that the money pales in comparison to the effort put in.’’
The journey ahead
Fair enough, but one wonders whether it is personal angst that is responsible for the Robinhood characters he writes. Says Shankar, “I’m a common man. And I’m fully aware of what is happening around me. As a journalist you have a pen that you use to highlight injustice. As a director, I have another medium to do exactly the same.’’
But the films he patronises are vastly different from the ones he makes. A self-confessed Mani Ratnam admirer, the other three films that have left an indelible mark on him are Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Lagaan, Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai and Raj Kumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots. “When I’m in between scripts the only things I make time for are watching movies,” he says.
And though his movies leave gadget freaks gasping, he’s technologically challenged in real life. “All the technology is reserved for my films. I don’t even know what hidden features my cell-phone has,’’ he laughs.
As he gets into his vehicle to visit the local Chennai theatres for reactions, he adds, “People want to know what I’m making next. I usually have some idea stashed away in my head for my next film even before the earlier one has wrapped.
In 17 years I have directed 10 films. I guess I have been prolific. But, this time around I want to wait for the hangover of Robot to subside. What I really need at this point is to splash some water on my face, clear my head and go for a long drive and feel the breeze blow.’’
|(L) A still from Boys (R) Aparichit|
|(L) Sivaji-The boss (R) Robot|
MM.com speaks to Natha’s mother, Farrukh ‘Ammaji’ Jaffer, only to bring out the intellectual and lighter side of a lady from the rustic lands of Uttar Pradesh
|Farrukh Jaffer, a far cry from Ammaji of Peepli Live|
“I am too busy and too free, depending on my priorities. But if there is someone to listen to me, I can talk 24 hours. Jaise ham abhi aapse baat kar rahe hain,” 72-year-old Farrukh Jaffer bursts out laughing. “Ammaji” is bound to slip out of your mouth when you are talking to her. One of the most memorable characters of Peepli Live, Ammaji, is what she is better known as now.
A graduate and a student of National School of Drama (NSD), Delhi, Farrukh started her career in All India Radio as an announcer in Lucknow. At NSD, she learnt a lot from one of the most influential theatre directors Ebrahim Alkazi. She performed in a few of his plays and thoroughly loved the experience. But somehow, she felt closer to radio and films. It was Muzzaffar Ali, director of Rekha-starrer Umrao Jaan, who gave her her big break in the film where she played Rekha’s mother. Farrukh, who has her base in Lucknow for years now, feels deep gratitude towards Muzzaffar Ali, “I am thankful to Muzzaffar saab from the bottom of my heart. He gave me my first break. And it was his serial Damyanti where Ashutosh Gowariker spotted me and offered me Swades. He always gave me the freedom an artiste like me craves for.”
Farrukh believes an artist is the best creation of God, who should be treated with care and given desired freedom. She received such a treatment from Aamir Khan while working on Peepli Live, she says, “Aamir Khan trusted and gave me this opportunity. I am best known for my voice over and in Peepli that is what worked for me as an actor. He let me extend my dialogue as I wanted. He understood the culture and knew the essence of the language. I got immense respect from him as a person and in terms of work too. I admire him for that.”
Farrukh is, no doubt, a nawab from Lucknow. She loves her comfort and feels uncomfortable when restricted. Her experience while working in Swades with Ashutosh Gowariker was not as pleasant though. She says, “It was a great experience. But I felt slightly restricted with him, creatively. As a radio artist, I have a habit of elongating my dialogue with voice modulation to make it more effective. I wasn’t allowed to do that. But then, Ashutosh did give me one of my best lines of my career.”
Swades also gave Farrukh an opportunity to interact with the superstar of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan, that too on the same level. She reminicences and laughs aloud at the interaction she had with him, “Shah Rukh ko main bandar bulati thi. He would put his head on my feet and ask me, ’Aap mujhe bandar kyu bulati hai?’ Then I would promptly reply, “Kyuki tum poora din bandar ki tarah uchaltey koodtey rehtey ho.” Admiring the father in King Khan, she says, “Woh apne bacchon ke bagair nahi reh sakta. He is a great father. I have just seen him interact with his kids.”
Despite belonging to a conservative family, she had all the support from her husband Sayyed Mohammed Jaffar, also a renowned journalist. He encouraged her in every step she took towards her passion for cinema. Mother of two grown up daughters says, “What should I say about him? He is the most amazing husband one can have. He supported me and allowed me to aspire big, which is very unlikely of a family with a conservative background like we have. But he trusted me and so did the family.”
In 30 years of her career, Farrukh had to shift base from a small village called Chakesar in Jaunpur district in Uttar Pradesh to Lucknow for a major period in between and then to Delhi. And now when she is doing films more often, she has to come down to Mumbai too. Totally in awe of the city, Farrukh says, “Mumbai sheher jaandaar hai. Yahaan kaam aapko dhoondhta hai. Mujhe behad pasand hai yeh sheher.” On the contrary, recalling her experience of living in another metro like Delhi almost 30 years ago, Farrukh didn’t really enjoy her time in the city. She says, “Dilli rehne wali jagah nahi hai. I felt very insecure while I came back from work. That time I was working with Akashvani. Even the transport facilities weren’t impressive. I used to regret leaving my job in All India Radio, Lucknow.”
Having seen the village life from close quarters, she agrees with how the subject is dealt in Peepli Live. Farrukh is against reservations given by the government to rural people. She believes, “Why can’t government give better facilities like better roads, light and houses to the rural people and inspire them to grow so that they don’t have to leave their house and family behind to go to a metro city to earn better?”
Ammaji she will remain for us until she is next seen in Aanand Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu, playing dadima to Kangna Ranaut who stars opposite R Madhvan in the film.
Peepli (Live) director Anusha Rizvi is unlikely to participate in the excitement regarding the film’s Oscar nomination. She explains why
In a day and age when a person even remotely associated with a hit film shouts from the rooftops about it, Anusha Rizvi seems remarkably unaffected and detached. The journalist-turned-director might have given a huge hit with her debut film, but would rather tour with her theatre group than be part of a marketing jamboree.
How did you get to know about the Oscar nomination for Peepli (Live)?
From the media! I heard it on NDTV. It was of course very exciting. Maybe we should’ve been informed by the government agency that decides which film goes to the Oscars.
Didn’t your producer Aamir Khan inform you?
He didn’t know! He is in London for the release of our film.
Why aren’t you in London for the release of Peepli (Live)?
Because I have not been asked to be in London. It is my film. But I live in Delhi. And I have no connection with the decisions that are taken in Mumbai.
Why have you cut yourself away from your film?
That’s partly because of the person that I am. I can’t change that. And I’m happy being that way. My work finished when I made the film that I had to make.
Of course publicity and marketing are important. And a lot more people went to see Peepli (Live) because of the way it was promoted. But what is more important to me is that a film should be seen for what it is. I think it is important for the audience to discover a film on their own.
A film should not be pushed down people’s throats. It’s important for it to create its own credibility.
Changes were made in the Peepli narrative for the London market. Are you aware of this?
Yes. Only two scenes were tampered with: one featuring a reference to Saif Ali Khan and the other to TRPs.
These were scenes that were never part of the original screenplay. Like many other scenes they were added later to increase the running time of the film for the Indian market.
Initially the interval was coming after 40 minutes of playing time.
I don’t think Peepli (Live) needed an interval. I don’t think so either. But it’s an intrinsic part of marketing our film. And I’ve no quibble with it. However I wish the film had not been pushed as a comedy, although I know that so many people would not have seen it otherwise. Let’s be honest. Peepli (Live) was not easy to market.
The film has made huge profits.
Would you be expecting a larger budget for your next film?
The content of the film and not the success or failure of the earlier film should decide the budget.
The DVD of Peepli (Live) is out soon. Are you participating in its editing?
I’ve got nothing to do with the DVD. I’m back in Delhi. I’m simply cut off from Mumbai and the film now. My husband Mahmood Farooqui and I are back to travelling with our small theatre group.
Hasn’t Peepli (Live) changed your life in any way?
Yes, to some extent. It’s become difficult to travel by train. I really miss that.
Your husband co-directed Peepli (Live). Not too many people know that.
It’s in the credits of the film. And of course he’s the co-director. He has also done all the casting. In the credits after my names comes a long list of producers. Then his name. That’s why his name is missed.
Why is his name not in the credits jointly with yours?
These are things that we had no knowledge or control over. Our main concern was to make the film we had.
What has the experience of directing Peepli (Live) taught you?
It has taught me to deal with a large number of people. It has been a huge learning curve for me. I know how to cope better with the production part of a film the next time.
You’re the first debutant director from India after Satyajit Ray to be going to the Oscars.
Yes the comparisons between my film and Pather Panchali keep surfacing. But there can be no comparison between the two. And I’m not being modest.
Are you and your husband going to Los Angeles for the Oscars?
It’s really exciting to see the film go to the Oscars. But it’s far more exciting to know that people in Patna, Gorakhpur and Barabankhi are watching and discussing it. Like I said Peepli (Live) was a film that we had to make. That it’s touched people is a very happy situation for us.
Final question. Would Aamir Khan be producing your next film?
No, he won’t.
The filmmaker will write Murder 2 around the Nithari killings. He has been meeting family members of the victims and the accused
After four long years, Mahesh Bhatt has resumed writing films. His next project will be called Murder 2. The last film he wrote was Woh Lamhe, which was autobiographical to a great extent. Bhatt is now co-writing Murder 2 with Shagufta Rafique, a film that is based on the much-talked-about Nithari killings.
The film is thus not a sequel to Murder, which starred Emraan Hashmi and Mallika Sherawat. The sequel to the Emraan-starrer is being directed by Mohit Suri and will cast a new girl opposite the actor.
Arguing that Murder 2 is far from being the sequel Mahesh Bhatt says, “This film is the next one in the Murder series like how we did the Raaz series. The Nithari killings sparked off an idea that we should make a film about monsters that live like normal people and are a great danger to others.”
Talking about the film, producer Mukesh Bhatt says, “It’s a crime thriller entirely shot in Goa. Mahesh has done thorough research on the case and made frequent trips to North India to meet the families of the victims and the accused.”
Mahesh Bhatt denies having met the two main accused Moninder Singh Pandher and Surinder Koli. He adds, “I am taking the help of some of my journalist friends to work on this film.”
The infamous Nithari killings surfaced at the end of December, 2006 and saw one of the most gruesome crimes ever committed. Approximately 15 human skulls and skeletal remains were unearthed.
After the police investigations, the accused Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surender Koli were arrested and charged with rape and murder. In February 2009, both were given death sentences. But in September, the Allahabad High Court acquitted Moninder Singh Pandher.
Despite a personal request from the man himself, Shah Rukh Khan allegedly refused to play Lalit Modi’s role in Percept Picture Company’s next, Commissioner
Shah Rukh Khan has refused to play the role of Indian Premiere League chairman Lalit Modi in Percept Picture Company’s film Commissioner. The film is based on Modi’s life, seen from a journalist’s eye.
SRK has chosen not to play the role presumably because he is such a crucial part of the IPL. The actor ostensibly does not want to get dragged into any controversy related to Modi.
Says a source, “When the film was announced, everything was very rosy on the IPL front. But after the recent controversy on Lalit Modi, it has become a very sensitive topic.”
Admitting that Shah Rukh Khan was approached for the title role, Joint MD of Percept, Shailendra Singh, who is also producing Commisioner, says, “Actually, Lalit Modi himself asked Shah Rukh but he declined. Shah Rukh said that he is very busy with his home production RA.One and hence unable.”
The latest buzz is that Ajay Devgn has been approached for the same role. Confirming this, Singh says, “Feelers have been sent to Ajay. We would love to have him on board. We have the investments team in place and we are committed to do this film.”
Apparently, even the direction of the film Commissioner is said to have switched hands. Earlier, Madhur Bhandarkar had been approached to direct it. Says a source “Madhur did not want to touch this subject as it is very controversial. (that’s a first!) Now, Shamin Desai will direct it.”
Meanwhile, another actor approached for the role was apparently Irrfan Khan. Adds the source, “The modalities of the project are being worked out. It all depends on how everything falls in place.
Ajay’s presence in the film would take it to a commercial level. Irrfan too is a great actor who can emote very well and has a fan following. The actor for the central role will be chosen in a few days.”
Kangna Ranaut, who refuses to be typecast, is having fun with her multiple roles
Meena Iyer | TNN (BOMBAY TIMES; August 29, 2010)
She’s arrives at a five-star hotel coffee shop dressed casually in a pair of skin-fitting blue jeans and a matching blouse. Her curly hair and her large, foreversearching-for-something-brown-eyes give her the quality of a child-woman. Kangna Ranaut is an interesting mix of innocence and equanimity.
Life is currently “very good’’ to her. Her slate is choc-o-bloc. Post the supersuccess of Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai for which she won accolades for her role as a yesteryear actress, it’s raining films and assorted roles in her backyard.
Says Kangna, “I don’t think any other actress in Bollywood has as many films as I do.’’ But, hello, she is not being immodest. In the next six months she has four films slated for the marquee. And unlike many actresses who are content to be typecast, Kangna is fortunate to have a wide array of roles to bite into. In October she’ll be in Sohail Maklai’s racy thriller Knockout with Sanjay Dutt and Irrfan Khan where she plays a journalist. Then there’s Tanu weds Manu where she plays a wannabe girl from small town Kanpur. But, of course, the high point of her career is producers Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar’s Game where this 23-year-old plays an Interpol officer.
“It is by far the most difficult role I’ve attempted,’’ says Kangna. “It was challenging to prepare for this role of a British girl from London who is actually quite like a man in many ways,’’ she says. The reason why she found this role so hard to prepare for is because she had no reference point of a girl who has stayed in London and speaks with a Brit accent. Having said that, the mountain beauty drops a bomb. She confesses that she has seen precisely six-seven Hollywood films in her entire life, and around 25 odd Bollywood films.
“So it wasn’t as if I knew a lot about FBI agents or CIA officials,’’ she points out. “And officers on special duty in our Hindi cinema are very different from their foreign counterparts. Abhinay Deo, the director of Game, helped me a lot by breaking the role down for me so I could interpret it correctly.’’
Kangna says Excel Entertainment (Ritesh and Farhan) were actually toying with the idea of getting a guy for this role. “However, they felt that a guy chasing a guy thing didn’t have that much of a novelty, so they changed it and I’m fortunate that they got me to do the role instead. I had to make sure that I got the body language perfect. There is nothing romantic or sensual about this Interpol officer. Yet my director didn’t want to go overboard with the stiffness and appear like too masculine. Believe me, it was a challenge. And Game is a film that I just enjoyed preparing for. It’s a never-been-seen before character as far as Bollywood goes.’’
It doesn’t stop there. While her contemporaries are falling over each other trying to grab films, Kangna’s booked way for the next year having signed on Priyadarshan’s Hindi adaptation of the Bullet Train; Indra Kumar’s comedy Double Dhamaal; David Dhawan’s Rascals; and, a film with debutant Chiraag Paswan. “Then I have been reading scripts and considering a few more projects. But now dates are an issue because I have signed on a lot of films and all are good,’’ she shrugs. What does one say? Get ready for a Kangna Ranaut film festival. For her the game has just begun.
Farmers’ suicide has been a grave problem since past many years and no individual, commission or government has able to put an end or at least reduce it. Peepli [Live] is a story based on this burning issue. However, the treatment is simple and a major part of the film is light-hearted and comical. However, at the same time, the goings-on at several places terribly move you. Achieving such a fine balance between the two is difficult but debutant director Anusha Rizvi succeeds in doings so very well. Peepli [Live] thus is a must watch…something that our countrymen should not miss!
The story of the movie: Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and his brother Budhia (Raghuvir Yadav) are involved in farming and live in a small village called Peepli, somewhere in the state of ‘Mukhya Pradesh’. The brothers are about to lose their land as they are unable to pay a bank loan. At this juncture, they learn that the government pays one lakh to the family of all those indebted farmers who commit suicide. Budhia thus persuades Natha to do the ‘honour’ so that their land can be saved. However, somehow, the local journalist Rakesh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) gets to know about their plan and publishes it in the local newspaper. From here, the news reaches the national television channels whose reporters immediately head to Peepli and turn the issue into ‘breaking news’! What makes the story ‘spicy’ is the fact that by-elections are soon happening in the constituency in which Peepli falls and this constituency belongs to the chief minister Ram Yadav (Jugal Kishore) of the state! Media, state government, central government…everyone sees this as an opportunity to outdo their rival and shine among the masses!
Peepli [Live] is based in a small village and all the actors playing villagers look exactly like one. Most of them are real-time villagers (the lead Omkar Das is a Chhattisgarh native). Hence the film looks more authentic and believable. Similarly the ones playing news reporters have gone into the skin of their characters and pitched a lifelike performance! Having spoken about the actors, let’s move to the winner of the movie…the script! The best part is, although the film throws light on those living below poverty line, you can feel a connect as we have been aware of their issues and problems. Same goes for news channels and their TRP-driven overdrive which we all have been witnessing since years. However, simultaneously, the director gives a behind-the-scenes take of these people and that’s when you realize that we are living in extremely cruel and insensitive times!
The film gets dry at times but not boring at all. Right from the first scene, the film shall keep you hooked. The film sets the mood with the scene where the brothers argue as to who should die. The intermission point was truly hilarious! The scene where Natha gets a ‘Lal Bahadur’ from the district board and later a television from a political party brings the house down but also exposes as to what level people stoop down to publicize themselves. Then the entire government track (involving rivalry between the central agricultural ministry and state government) was very well shown.
Certain scenes deeply move you. For instance, the sequence where Natha hugs his goat. And not to forget, the mini-track involving an extremely malnourished farmer is the most touching part of the story. The film reaches a high when an important development takes place in the narrative. The climax, involving chasing of one another was similar to Priyadarshan movies but seems very true and believable. The last scene was unexpected but was totally justified.
Hats off to all actors for pitching in brilliant performances! The film belongs to Omkar Das Manikpuri! He hasn’t mouthed many dialogues but it’s his eyes, mannerisms and (adorable) looks that speak a lot! One of the best debuts this year! Raghuvir Yadav shines whenever he does an out-of-the-box film and Peepli [Live] is no exception! He has a major role in the first hour but gets sidelined in the second half (there was no option actually). Nawazuddin Siddiqui (who rocked in Black Friday, Firaaq and New York) gives yet another powerful performance. He has a major part in the narrative and he plays his part very well! An actor to watch! Mallika Shenoy as Nandita Mallik leaves a mark. She looked every inch a news reporter. A performance you’ll surely remember for a long time! Same goes for Vishal O Sharma as Nandita’s rival. What a performance!
Shalini Vasta as Natha’s wife and Farrukh Jaffer as Natha’s mother provide some funny moments throughout the film. Naseeruddin Shah as the agricultural minister Salim Kidwai was absolutely natural. Jugal Kishore makes an impact especially in the scene wherein he’s deciding under which scheme Natha can be helped! Sitaram Panchal as Bhai Thakur was excellent especially in the entry scene. The person belonging to casteist party, the digging farmer and the rest do a great job.
Music was very rustic and soulful. All songs leave a mark. Des Mera (by Indian Ocean), Chola Mati Ke (by Nageen Tanvir) and most importantly, Mehengai Dayain (by Bidwai village artistes) were very delightful. Mathias Duplessy’s background score was effective. Hemanti Sarkar’s editing was crisp and flawless. Make-up and costumes helped even more in giving the actors a true-to-life look. Shanker Raman’s cinematography was one of the best this year.
Anusha Rizvi, the writer-director deserves brownie points for her outstanding job. Her story was novel but at the same time relatable. Screenplay was gripping and she did a great job by not falling to commercial diktats. As for her direction, well, it was a surprise! Rarely can a debutant director do such a fine job (the last one to probably do so was Nandita Das in Firaaq). A brilliant job to say the least and hope she goes a long way!
And finally, the review would be incomplete without the mention of producer Aamir Khan! It’s thanks to his efforts and name that the film is today seen in large numbers and creating waves everywhere! Hats off Mr Perfectionist!
Some of the best scenes:
1. Natha and Budhia meet Bhai Thakur
2. Natha and Budhia arguing as to who should die
3. Nandita interviewing Salim Kidwai in the studio
4. Natha gets ‘Lal Bahadur’!
5. The intermission point
6. News reports interviewing any tom, dick, harry in Peepli about Natha
7. Natha gifted television
8. The digging farmer track
9. Rakesh and Nandita’s verbal argument
10. The last 20 minutes
On the whole, Peepli [Live] is truly satire at its best! Aided with a brilliant script and performances, the film will not only make you laugh but the sensitive handling will also move you! One of the best films of the year, this one is not to be missed! Go for it!!
My rating-**** ½ out of 5!
After working on a sensitive documentary, Anusha Rizvi realised how a balanced approach is crucial for a film
As Anusha Rizvi awaits audience reaction to her directorial debut Peepli Live, a lot has been written on the theme which revolves around farmers’ suicide. But Anusha is quick to say that the film is much more than just a satire on farmers’ suicide.
“The film is an objective view on the huge divide between urban and rural India which is a much larger issue,” she says.
Facts to fiction
Objectivity doesn’t come easy when you are dealing with a sensitive subject and trying to not take sides. For Anusha, this isn’t something new as she has faced the same situation while working on a docu-fiction on the IC 814 hijack drama. On December 24, 1999, IC 814 had taken off from Kathmandu and was on its way to India when it was hijacked by five Pakistani terrorists and was taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan. “While researching, we saw the personal side of all the passengers on board and they seized to be just statistics. Interviewing the passengers and the flight attendants gave us an insight into the psyche of the terror-stricken people,” she says.
It was necessary to get both sides of the story, but unfortunately Anusha and the team couldn’t get a balanced view. “When you are dealing with a sensitive issue which involves both, India and Pakistan, it is important to balance it. We tried our best to go to Lahore and Kandahar but did not get permission to shoot there. We tried to get in touch with the journalists and Pakistani agencies, but ran into a wall every time. In the end, we had to go with a one-sided story,” she reveals.
Never say never
In 2004-2005, there was an interest in the media about farmers’ suicide. This is when Anusha decided to ‘tell’ a story, without being judgmental.
For a first time director with no prior experience in filmmaking, it was a tough task but she gave it a shot. Says Anusha, “I never give up without trying, something which I learnt from (the late theatre veteran) Habib Tanvir.
I have known him all my life and looking at him, I have realised how worthless our life has been.” Tanvir’s wife passed away and a week after that, he fell down and broke his ribs. He was 82-years-old then.
“At that age, it is difficult to not resign to your fate. But Tanvirsaab was different. He recovered and went back to what he loved best – theatre. I realised that if he has so much energy and determination at that age, why can’t I?” she concludes.
It is hard to decipher Lucky Ali. Simply because the man has so many layers to him. By the time you unravel and demystify one, a newer, more fascinating aspect emerges
Singer, part-time actor, part-time environmentalist and full-time philosopher…call him what you may, but his beliefs and comments, laced with his typically reflective observations, make for a fascinating study.
Be it his neatly balanced relationships with his two wives, his music, his caustic views on the media or his deep concern for the environment, Lucky dances to his own tunes.
|Lucky says he had a premonition that he would be married twice. (Below left) With second wife Inaya|
We are in his farm, a one-hour drive from Bangalore city, surrounded by acres of green when he walks in dressed in pyjamas and an orange sweat shirt over a grey tee, those famous curls, now all salt and pepper. His hazel eyes are hidden behind dark aviators. “I have puffy eyes,” he says. He reluctantly removes the aviators and settles down on a stone bench.
Over some kadak chai and toast, his “comfort food”, he ponders on a life less ordinary.
Once again, it’s music that has brought Lucky out of near seclusion. After a five-year hiatus, he’s released ‘Xsuie’. “It means ‘at your own pace’,” he explains. He is excited about the online distribution of his album. “I wanted to do away with physical distribution. Imagine the plastic that you will be using, the paper that you will waste for making CDs. Moreover, an online release frees me up from numerous hassles associated with tying up with music companies. Also, it helps me interact with my fans directly,” he tells us.
A quick glance at his career reveals that the album couldn’t have been more aptly named. “My brother once said, ‘In life you should paddle slowly.’ I didn’t understand it at that time. But it stuck with me. And I have been living life at my own pace. The point is you should paddle slowly but never miss the bus,” he smiles.
It’s not hard to see why. He’s been an actor (debuted at 44), a singer, a carpet-cleaner, oil-rigger, horse-breeder, organic farmer, playback singer and a father of four children and the husband of two women… the many identities which bring us then to the point of his relationships.
Lucky says he met Meaghan Jane McCleary, a native of New Zealand and a pastor’s daughter, when he went to YMCA in Delhi along with his brother “Macky.” He was helping him with the door when he saw a pretty girl smile at him. “My brother says `hi’ to everyone. Soon he got talking to Meaghan. Then I joined them.
We began meeting regularly and became friends. She went back to New Zealand. That’s when my brother said, ‘She is a good girl.
You should marry her.’ When Meaghan returned to India I felt she liked me too. She came to India on a Wednesday, I proposed on a Thursday and we married on a Friday,” he narrates the love story. Today they have two children, Ta’awwuz, 14, and Tasmia, 13.
Lucky says he did have a strange intuition about his marital life. “I always knew I’d have more than one wife. In fact I did tell Meaghan about it when we got married. She thought I was joking.” But he was not. Four years after his first marriage, he married again.
This time to a Parsi girl called Anahita. Today, known as Inaya, a filmmaker and photographer, she’s lives in Mumbai with Lucky’s other two children Sara and Raiyan.
An SMS interrupts the conversation. He checks it stealthily, but can’t hide his smile. “Inaya is such a funny girl,” he says. The SMS is from her.
The conversation continues, only to be interrupted by a long-distance phone call. It’s Meaghan. Lucky is making travel plans. He will be flying out to New Zealand to bring his wife and two children back to India. “We have decided to home-school our children,” he says.
Duality of love
What does love mean to him? “Oh, love…it’s everything. The Creator loved us so much, he made this world for us…plants, animals….” Okay, let’s get specific.
What about love between man and woman (or women)? Without missing a beat he says, “Marriage.” Huh? “Marriage, that’s it,” he reiterates. “Nothing beyond that.
In my space, in the faith I follow, I have the permission to marry four times. But Allah also says if you feel you cannot deal with them equitably then marry one.”
Does that mean you can love more than one woman at the same time?
“Yes. I think I can love more than two people with the same intensity. My strength comes from the women I am married to. They are a part of my spiritual make-up.” Does his wives understand that? “I think they do.
A woman does not really have a problem if her husband marries again as long as she knows that he loves her.
And I love my wives.” He explains further, “It is not physical. It is something spiritual. It’s about children, growth, making a world, a life, something about…..” he grapples for the right words.
Then he cuts it short with a.. “It’s not about what you irresponsible journalists think it is. I’m sorry,” he apologises. “Would you like your husband to come back home and lie to you?” he asks.
No. But few women would want their husbands to come back and say they’re marrying again.
He ignores and continues, “What would be harder? Your trust would break and you would do something wrong. For what? Some men are built a particular way.
Some are suited for one marriage. I don’t think I am suited for one marriage. I move around a lot. I am a free spirit. I get lonely. I cannot cheat. What happens when you are faced with temptations? It’s better to marry. Be honest to your wife and love your wives.”
But how did Meaghan take it when she was told about his second marriage? “Like a martyr. It’s such a hard hit for a woman,” he says.
“I never knew I was going to get married to Inaya. I was spending a lot of time in India. I was lonely and needed to be with someone. It happened over a period of time.
Inaya spoke to Meaghan. And she said, ‘Go with Allah’s steps’. I have learnt so many things about life from my wives,” he says. How does he manage the balancing act? “They taught me about love and relationships. I am such a Jahil. And I have all these beautiful people in my life.”
Does your entire family live under the same roof? “The children connect with each other. But for women…it is sensitive na? Yes, we celebrate festivals together.
Earlier we all lived in the farm. Inaya and the children lived with my dad in his house, while Meghan and the children lived here with me. This is Meghan’s house,” he points out to a squat structure in front. The farm has many individual houses occupied by members of the Ali family.
Apparently, Mehmood had warned Inaya about him. “He said to her, be careful. He might just take a third wife.”
Life on the straight lane
Lucky Ali’s life, in his own words is “Out-of-the-box”. He just wants to live his life - truthfully. Truth as he knows it. “All my life I have lived in a family where two marriages was the norm. My father had two wives and so did my uncles. There was my mom and Tracy mom.
There was badi chachi and chotti chachi. And there was love. All the children grew up together with lots of love.” Then he asks pointedly, “Why do you journalists have to write about all this? There are more important issues you need to write instead of a jerk singing O Sanam and marrying twice.”
|With wife Inaya and kids Sara and Raiyan|
Agreed, but this facet of his life is intriguing to say the least. “I am not going to apologize for who I am,” he says. “Talk about the issues that worry the world. You are not thinking about deforestation; our ground water is depleting; I am worried about how this Earth is going to be for our children.”
He is not kite-flying. Lucky has spent time with farmers as part of a project with OXFAM. He is also passionate about education of children and works towards educating the underprivileged.
Currently, what is consuming him is M-Spot, a 24/7 music room that will be streamed live, online. The studio is being set up in his house. “Here those who are interested in music, can jam.
There will be artists from our own Lucky Ali Enterprise, and artists from abroad who will come and jam here.
Fans can see what we are up to and interact with us live. There’s going to be a radio station, on line space and live music room. The future is exciting,” he says.
As we mentioned, for Lucky Ali life is just a journey that paddles slowly and surely.
While researching for Knockout, director Mani Shankar was thrown out by a banker in Zurich
Recently, Knockout director Mani Shankar had a very embarrassing experience. Since Knockout is about Indians who have illegal Swiss accounts, Mani (who was once the personal media advisor to the late former Prime Minister Narsimha Rao) went to a Swiss banker in Zurich, to understand the procedure of opening a Swiss bank account. The banker ended up throwing Mani out of the building.
Mani’s enquiries made this particular banker very skeptical. Halfway through the conversation, the banker got suspicious about Mani’s intentions; he thought Mani was actually a journalist who was trying to unearth a scam. Refusing to divulge any more information, the furious banker started yelling at him.
He refused to answer any of Mani’s further questions and eventually threw him out.
A source says, “Mani felt that he would pull it off. Some people had advised him that it would be a very tough task. But Mani thought that if he was doing nothing illegal then where was the need to worry? He decided to give it a try, so he could get a closer look at the detailed procedure of opening a Swiss bank account.”
Mani said, “I do research for all my films. Knockout was not going to be an exception. This happened in Zurich. The banker realised that I had no money. You need at least Rs 5 crore to open an account in a Swiss bank. The banker got very angry and it was very difficult to convince him. He asked me to leave.”